A Review of ‘Empire of Gold’ by Thomas F. Madden

This is a series of lectures by The Modern Scholar. It is about the history of the Byzantine Empire.

I find this lecture series very hard to review.

What these lectures do, they do very well. This is a very well researched narration of the beat-by-beat history of Byzantium, from it’s foundation by the Roman Constantine, to it’s dissolution by the Ottoman Mehmed. I can’t really say more about it than that, because that’s what this is. The lecturer spent his time talking about the internecine details of how important religious leaders(the Popes, the Patriarchs), warriors (crusaders, califs, emperors, generals) and schemers(spies, traitors, backstabbers). This lecture series is very, VERY good at providing the year-by-year breakdown of what happened, who did it, and who it happened to.

What this lecture series doesn’t do much of is talk about Byzantine culture, art, religion (except for the Catholic vs Orthodox dynamic). The lecture doesn’t humanize the important actors in Byzantine history by providing backgrounds and fully fleshed out stories. It does provide some of this information- such as when the lecturer briefly discusses topics like ‘medieval themes’ and ‘Justinian’s reign.’ I wanted more of that.

These lectures aren’t bad because the lecturer didn’t cover these topics- far from it- but that lack makes this series as dry as a bone. Approach this lecture series as a history of Byzantium, talking about all the major events (and a good number of the minor events) from the entire 1000 year history of Constantinople. However I don’t think it’s where you want to start when you’re just beginning to learn about the Eastern Roman Empire, it’s too much of a bird’s-eye-view.

STARS: 3.2 OUT OF 5 STARS (5 stars=perfect, 4 Stars=Great, 3 Stars=Good, 2 Stars=Fun but Flawed, 1 Star=Not Recommended)

GRADE: Birds-eye-view of Byzantine History

Overall Rating: Recommended with Reservations (How I Rate Books)


Genres/Tagwords: Nonfiction, Lecture Series, The Modern Scholar, Rome, Byzantium, ,

Previous books by the author/in the series I’ve reviewed:

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